HC Deb 27 April 1983 vol 41 cc863-4
20. Mr. Dobson

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many local housing authorities have budgeted to transfer money from their housing revenue accounts to their general rate fund in 1983–84.

Mr. Stanley

This information is not yet available.

Mr. Dobson

Does the Minister agree that it is grossly inequitable to transfer funds from council tenants to the general body of ratepayers when the average income of council tenants is lower than that of owner-occupiers?

Mr. Stanley

I do not agree. The House debated the subject at great length in 1980. If one examines the relative incomes of different tenure groups, one finds, for example, that the average income of tenants who rent in the private sector are somewhat lower than the income of those who rent in the public sector, yet the former are ratepayers. We give councillors discretion about making transfers from the general rate fund to the housing revenue account and the House has taken the view that we can give them the same discretion to make a reverse transfer if they believe it is reasonable to do so.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Now that it has been proved that many councils are making extortionate profits out of their council tenants and are transferring those profits to the general rate fund, will the Minister go to the Prime Minister, after her stupid comment in the House yesterday that council tenants throughout the country are being subsidised, and ask her to withdraw her statement and show some sensitivity towards people on low incomes, who invariably have to live in council accommodation?

Mr. Stanley

The hon. Gentleman should have regard to what I have just said and consider the scale of the transfer in the reverse direction. He may be interested to know that transfers from the housing revenue account to the general rate fund last year totalled some £21 million, whereas transfers from the general rate fund to the housing revenue account totalled £443 million.

Mr. Kaufman

Is it not a fact that, this year, the Government have planned for £2,500 million in tax relief for people who are buying their houses on a mortgage, while housing subsidies have been reduced to £370 million. Is it not also the case that not only do council house tenants pay rent, which has increased by 134 per cent. under this Government, but they pay rates like everyone else? Therefore, is it not intolerable for the Government to force council house tenants to subsidise the rates of people whose incomes are 20 per cent. higher than theirs?

Mr. Stanley

I am delighted to hear of the right hon. Gentleman's anxiety about council tenants as ratepayers. That is not exhibited by the level of rates levied by many Labour authorities. As to assistance for council tenants, I remind the right hon. Gentleman that more than half of all local authority tenants receive subtantial help with their rents through the rent rebate and supplementary benefit systems.

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